Amazing Pictures of Grim and Gritty New York City in the 1960s & 1970s

New York, often called New York City (NYC) to distinguish it from the state of New York, is the most populous city in the United States. With a 2020 population of 8,804,190 distributed over 300.46 square miles (778.2 km2), New York City is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban area. With over 20.1 million people in its metropolitan statistical area and 23.5 million in its combined statistical area as of 2020, New York is one of the world’s most populous megacities. New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, significantly influencing commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, dining, art, fashion, and sports, and is the most photographed city in the world. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy, and has sometimes been called the capital of the world.

Situated on one of the world’s largest natural harbors, New York City is composed of five boroughs, each of which is coextensive with a respective county of the state of New York. The five boroughs—Brooklyn (Kings County), Queens (Queens County), Manhattan (New York County), the Bronx (Bronx County), and Staten Island (Richmond County)—were created when local governments were consolidated into a single municipal entity in 1898. The city and its metropolitan area constitute the premier gateway for legal immigration to the United States. As many as 800 languages are spoken in New York, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world. New York is home to more than 3.2 million residents born outside the United States, the largest foreign-born population of any city in the world as of 2016. As of 2018, the New York metropolitan area is estimated to produce a gross metropolitan product (GMP) of nearly $1.8 trillion, ranking it first in the United States. If the New York metropolitan area were a sovereign state, it would have the eighth-largest economy in the world. New York is home to the second highest number of billionaires of any city in the world.

New York City traces its origins to a trading post founded on the southern tip of Manhattan Island by Dutch colonists in approximately 1624. The settlement was named New Amsterdam (Dutch: Nieuw Amsterdam) in 1626 and was chartered as a city in 1653. The city came under English control in 1664 and was renamed New York after King Charles II of England granted the lands to his brother, the Duke of York. The city was regained by the Dutch in July 1673 and was renamed New Orange for one year and three months; the city has been continuously named New York since November 1674. New York City was the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790, and has been the largest U.S. city since 1790. The Statue of Liberty greeted millions of immigrants as they came to the U.S. by ship in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and is a symbol of the U.S. and its ideals of liberty and peace. In the 21st century, New York has emerged as a global node of creativity, entrepreneurship, and environmental sustainability, and as a symbol of freedom and cultural diversity. In 2019, New York was voted the greatest city in the world per a survey of over 30,000 people from 48 cities worldwide, citing its cultural diversity.

Many districts and monuments in New York City are major landmarks, including three of the world’s ten most visited tourist attractions in 2013. A record 66.6 million tourists visited New York City in 2019. Times Square is the brightly illuminated hub of the Broadway Theater District, one of the world’s busiest pedestrian intersections, and a major center of the world’s entertainment industry. Many of the city’s landmarks, skyscrapers, and parks are known around the world, as is the city’s fast pace, spawning the term New York minute. The Empire State Building has become the global standard of reference to describe the height and length of other structures. Manhattan’s real estate market is among the most expensive in the world. Providing continuous 24/7 service and contributing to the nickname The City That Never Sleeps, the New York City Subway is the largest single-operator rapid transit system worldwide, with 472 rail stations. The city has over 120 colleges and universities, including Columbia University, New York University, Rockefeller University, and the City University of New York system, which is the largest urban public university system in the United States. Anchored by Wall Street in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, New York City has been called both the world’s leading financial center and the most financially powerful city in the world, and is home to the world’s two largest stock exchanges by total market capitalization, the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. (Wikipedia)

Legendary photojournalist Jean-Pierre Laffont captured the changing times of New York City, covering everything from free love to the grim and gritty ’70s. His photographs always seem to tell more than one story. From Ku Klux Klan rallies in LA, Muhammad Ali sounding off, and the kissing competition at the first Gay Pride in New York… Laffont captured it all. Here’s a selection of his staggering black and white photography that runs the gamut of 20th-century US history.

Two men ‘flip the bird’ at the Central Park crowd that’s formed as they compete in the kissing contest during New York’s inaugural Gay Pride celebration on 28 June 1970.
A fist raised in protest from behind the bars at Toms Prison, Manhattan, on 28 September, 1972.
Muhammad Ali finger-pointing during the weigh-in before his second boxing match with Joe Frazier on 23 January, 1974, in New York. Ali won the fight and regained the title.
Two homeless men squat in the shadow of the recently completed World Trade Center in October, 1975. New York City was on the verge of bankruptcy and the World Trade Center sat largely vacant.
Valerie Mayers shows off her biceps backstage before winning the Ms Empire State Competition in New York, 20 June 1981.
On Fox Street in the Bronx, an abandoned Plymouth Savoy becomes a jungle gym for kids to play on in the summer of 1966.
Presidential candidate and New York senator Robert Kennedy greets supporters on a campaign stop in Fort Greene, Brooklyn on 1 April, 1968.
A young couple kisses as the chaos of the crowd whirs around them with an estimated 600,000 rock fans on July 28, 1973. The Summer Jam at Watkins Glen was a 1973 rock festival which once received the Guinness Book of World Records entry for “Largest audience at a pop festival.”
A prostitute leans playfully on a cop car on 42nd Street Times Square, May, 1980. The police struggled to keep up with the onslaught of crime in the area, and at times seemed to be playing a friendly game of cat and mouse with the hookers.

Photos by Jean-Pierre Laffont

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